Forty years is an investment. Longer than some shorter than others. In dollar value the investment is less than major corporate and development holdings but still forty years has been pretty heavily invested in this adopted home of Portage la Prairie. The business owned and operated for 24 years has been sold, the profession and jobs held are past, the service clubs shadows of their heyday, boards and politics have lost their attraction as membership increasingly requires a suspension of character, honesty and the priority of service.
A constant, more than anything else during these forty years was the question, Why would you choose to live in Portage? The question shockingly was posed by the local population as much as non residents and always with a heavier tone than conversation about other locations. The tone was similar to describing a worst taste contest that this city chronically wins. Still I thought, there’s so much good here either people are wrong or just not understanding how to fix this assessment.
Forty years later conversations continue to reflect the same bad taste contest, and the same winner. The only conclusion is to allow that they are right, and I am wrong. The why of the question must be set aside. People must be taken at face value and we must acknowledge the truth, that no one should choose to live in Portage. We have a population of those stuck here, those insulation well enough to ignore the taste and go about their lives, and those who take the wealth of our community away as though Portage is their personal ATM and wealth transfer broker. No other assessment fits the facts.
The Good News only club insists that these truths must never be spoken. They holler from their pews that the negativity is what destroys our community. Even if it is the truth, saying it out loud doesn’t help anyone. A positive attitude is the key, not the discomfort of life changes to address the truth.
In this last statement the Good News folks are correct. The personal changes required have not happened and evidence suggests will not happen. For many reasons we have what we have and the only recourse appears to be fresh paint, new outfits, lip gloss and a spray tan because the real structural issues will not be resolved or discussed. Portage will continue looking for big investment white knights as our salvation, hanging our future on other outside agencies rather than adding these on to the successful community built only by the discomfort of personal investment.
Do I still care, has become a qualified answer. My sadness about this community will remain but most sympathy is done. Looking to what could be is replaced with the clear and present vision of what is. Exhortation and belief is replaced with a commitment to evidence and reality. Hope and faith cannot be stretched beyond the choices people make because however positive the Good News, it requires choice to make a difference.
Al Collins